DVUR KRALOVE, Czech Republic — Five critically endangered eastern black rhinos from wildlife parks in three European countries are ready to be transported back to their natural habitat in Rwanda, where the entire rhino population was wiped out during the genocide in the 1990s.
Officials from the Czech Republic’s Dvur Kralove zoo said Thursday that the three female and two male rhinos have been slowly trained to get used to custom-made transport boxes to take them Sunday to Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda, which is now considered safe for rhinos.
Their journey will mark the biggest single transport of rhinos from Europe to Africa. Transporting them won’t be easy, and the animals will have to be tranquilized several times during the trip.
The rhinos first met in November when the three at the Dvur Kralove zoo were joined by one from Flamingo Land in Britain and one from Ree Park Safari in Denmark.
‘‘Even though they have been well prepared, you know it is still a long trip, it is stressful, it is stressful for me, it is probably stressful for them,’’ said Pete Morkel, a veterinarian from Zimbabwe and expert on rhino relocations.
When they get to Rwanda, the rhinos will undergo a lengthy process of adaption before they will be allowed to roam freely and join 18 eastern black rhinos that were transported to the park from South Africa in 2017.